King’s Quest Chapter 1 was great. The expansive cast of interesting characters with a wealth of interesting dialog. The variety of environments. The different intuitive puzzles to solve along the way that fit within the narrative structure. It was colorful — a simple pleasure to look at. And with all of these elements, Chapter 1 had an impressive run time of five to six hours, not to mention the replayability based on all of the different decisions you could make along the way. All of this left me fully excited to play the follow up.
King’s Quest Chapter 2: Rubble Without a Cause begins with Graham finding himself the king of Daventry, an utterly overwhelming task that soon has him darting for the door, despite the pouring rain. Graham’s breath of fresh air is quickly cut short as he becomes the subject of a goblin kidnapping. It’s shortly revealed that he’s not the only one kidnapped, and a series of puzzles begin to help free the rest of the citizens of Daventry from the clutches of the goblin caverns.
Having a few kidnapped villagers presents a new challenge in the puzzle element of the game. Most of the puzzles are very straightforward and simple — much more so than the first chapter — and the difficulty is not in completing them. The trial comes in managing the health of Daventry’s residents while also figuring out how to raise your own strength in order to make it all the way through and complete all of the puzzles scattered throughout the goblins’ cavernous home. Failing in this task has dire consequences for the fate of your subjects, something I’ll go over more in the spoiler filled section of the review.
The Pied Piper Is Calling
The puzzles are based on fairy tales, as the goblins have an insane obsession with recreating scenes and stories from books. The simplified puzzles had me missing the clever conundrums that I faced in the first chapter. A basic knowledge of fairy tales was often enough to get me through, and where a fairy tale wasn’t the answer, it was traditionally finding the obvious answer deeper within the caverns. It lacked the fun mini game type of scenarios that the first chapter offered. In fact, it lacked much of the variety of Chapter 1.
The biggest problem that Rubble Without a Cause faces is its single track nature. Clocking in at a two to three hour playthrough, it’s significantly shorter than I expected. The cast is diminished from the varied ensemble in A Knight to Remember, only seeing a fraction of the characters return while failing to introduce any meaningful new faces. While the visuals are the same awesome visuals that I praised so much in the first chapter, there’s only so much you can do with a network of caves, and Chapter 2 is missing the broad and assorted stage that we saw earlier in the series.
The goblins present themselves as a boring and unimposing villainous force, lacking any kind of spoken language or sense of conflict aside from holding our hero captive in a cave. An extra act may have helped to flesh the story out a bit more, but as Chapter 2 currently stands, it was a weak sophomore attempt that held very little narrative value and simply served as a way to deliver the twisting new conflict presented in the final scene.
The Spoilery Part
I’m going to spoil some things for the episode here, because I can only properly review this by revealing some information about the end of the chapter, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading now.
I mentioned that failure to manage your subjects’ health while solving the puzzles would have dire consequences. If their health meter drops to zero, you’ll find that they are carted off by the goblins, presumably having died in their care, or lack thereof. The extreme nature of these consequences had me stressing every decision I made. I watched two of the villagers that I was trying to protect get taken away after failing to get them food or medicine that they so desperately needed.
It’s all for naught. By the end, I came to realize that these people weren’t dying. They were simply becoming unavailable to me as part of my escape plan. My choices were not having resounding narrative consequences, but rather impacts on the potential solutions I had for the puzzle of escaping the goblins’ cave. Once it came time to escape, the carted off villagers are found resting and seemingly recovering in a side room, because apparently the goblins have heart enough not to just let them die down there.
One of the strong points it does provide is a look at Graham’s role and mentality as king. He is overwhelmed by it, but cares deeply for each on of his subjects, and we get to see him question whether or not he is strong enough for the job. It’s a very different Graham from the young boy trying to become a knight in Daventry. Now he’s a young king trying to live up to a monumental reputation.
Alright then, I’ve had enough of the spoilers. What do you say we wrap this one up?
The Non-Spoilery Conclusion
There’s still plenty of funny dialog and moments to be seen, such as Graham hiding an entire person in his cape. It still retains the same wit and charm that the first chapter had. It’s still a part of a series that I am convinced will be a great full title by its end. With mediocre conflict, and only small bits of character and narrative advancement, it just didn’t strike a chord quite as beautifully as was expected, though it does come with a skip button built in for dialog you’ve already heard, making trial and error not nearly as tedious as before.
It’s easy to see the flaws in Rubble Without a Cause if it’s compared to its predecessor. Chapter 2 simply shines half as bright as A Knight to Remember. By itself, it’s still a fun adventure with entertaining puzzles, dialog, and of course, that beautiful visual style that they’ve created for this King’s Quest. As a whole, Chapter 2 is definitely the lesser of the two out thus far, and given the premium price point on the episodes, and the claim that this game will be bigger than most episodic releases (such as Telltale Games’ titles), I expected a bit more than the mundane and quick filler episode we got. Given a strong start from Chapter 1, I’m hoping that The Odd Gentlemen can dust themselves off after faltering with Chapter 2 and give us a third chapter to be proud of.
King’s Quest Chapter 2: Rubble Without a Cause review copy purchased by reviewer. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.